Violence against any person, for any reason, is abhorrent. When the victim is a child we weep. When the victim is a soldier we mourn the sacrifice he made. When the victim is a defenseless, unarmed mother of young children we are outraged. When the tragedy involved the elderly, it is hard to imagine the evil that motivated such an assault. Yet as horrific as it is to consider the crime in this country, against any person, at any time, “hate” crimes are even more outrageous.
Some crimes are the result of insanity. The shooting of Gabby Giffords was probably the best known crime by a person who was mentally ill. Some crimes are determined to be crimes of “passion” where the criminal is so overcome with emotion, that the crime results. The wife who finds her husband involved with a prostitution ring that employs the woman who gave her a massage, might be sufficiently outraged (especially if she were bipolar) that violence might result. Some violence is motivated by a desire for revenge. The Lorena Bobbitt case is a perfect example of a woman abused to the point of seeking revenge. However the victim of a “hate crime” is not only the individual, but the entire society. They are crimes committed against an individual because of his or her race, heritage, sexual preferences, or religious affiliation. In America, those differences are supposed to be protected by the Constitution, so to attack a person for any of these reasons, is an attack on our way of life. It is an assault on the right of life and liberty that we hold so dear. When people carry signs proclaiming “I am Trayvon” the message is, if you attack Trayvon, and ignore his right to life and liberty, you attack my sense of security to live in America, whether I am male, female, white, black, old, or young.
When the President says that his son would look like Trayvon, the message is that when you fail to protect the life of Trayvon Martin, you, the government and the police, fail to enforce the very laws that were designed to protect us.
The predictable response of every American is to question “Am I Next?”
The number of hate crimes in America is widespread, and affects a wide variety of races, religions, heritages, and sexual preferences. Consider just a few of the categories of these crimes that have been shown to be motivated by something other than the content of the character of the individuals.
The famous case of Matthew Shepard involved the assault on a young man who was attacked and died because he was gay. The two men who robbed him left him for dead, after typing him to a fence, pistol whipping him, and breaking his skull. The only part of his face that was not covered in blood was the path of his tears as they washed away the blood.
Who could forget the racially motivated hate crime of James Byrd Jr. when he was chained and dragged behind a truck in Jasper Texas until he died after his arm and head were severed.
Then there was the developmentally disabled man of Navajo heritage who was abused and branded with a swastika.
There was the stabbing of the Muslim cab driver in New York, because of his Muslim background.
Five people shot in a Jewish community center were targeted due to the fact that they were Jewish, and no other reason. The three that were children will spend the rest of their lives wondering if they will be targeted again.
In 2008 hate crimes were reported to be on the rise. In 2010 there were 1,606 hate crime offenses motivated by religious bias in 2008. Jews and Muslims were the target of 65.7 percent of them. Hate crimes based on sexual orientation increased 3% to 1,297, although the number of people victimized went up 13% to 1,706. In 2008 alone there were 2,876 hate crimes against blacks, 1,297 against gays, and 1,055 against Jews.
On Good Friday, three days ago, five blacks were shot in Tulsa Oklahoma, three of whom died. The men who have been arrested were white. Based upon Facebook postings of one of the men arrested, it appears that the shootings were racially motivated. Jake England, one of the two charged, wrote:
“…Today is two years that my dad has been gone shot by a fucking nigger…”
The name “Trayvon Martin” has become a household name. Yet the three killed in the racially motivated shooting in Tulsa, although equally tragic, will probably not be remembered by anyone other than their families. Why? Likewise the two elderly people beaten, raped, and killed in Tulsa Oklahoma will be mourned by their loved ones, but who remembers them? The loss of life, and the tragedy of their deaths would only make headline news for a day or two.
The three people killed on Good Friday were black people unknown by their white assailants. The two elderly white people attacked in their Tulsa home were attacked by a person who happened to be black.
Members of the Tulsa community and the police department expressed outrage immediately upon the commission of these crimes. In the case of the elderly people there was no indication that they were victimized because of the color of their skin. However the police responded by arresting the culprit, regardless of his skin color. In the recent shooting of blacks in Tulsa, the police department, the FBI, and the U.S. Marshal Service worked together immediately, forming a task force to find, and apprehend, these criminals. With 24 hours of the shootings, two men were arrested. It was no accident that they were apprehended. During an initial appearance in a press conference the police chief and Mayor of Tulsa, implored anyone with ANY knowledge to come forward in a united effort to bring the assailants to justice. The attitude of the Chief of Police was clear as he declared:
Not only was law enforcement actively involved in locating witnesses, but they were encouraging people to call with information even if they were unwilling to identify themselves. Because of the Facebook posting of the apprehended man it seems likely that it was someone on Facebook that suspected this individual’s involvement.
Unfortunately, the police were not so aggressive in bringing George Zimmerman to justice in the Trayvon Martin case. The shooter in that case admitted that he shot Tryvon, and the weapon was in his possession when he was taken into custody. When George Zimmerman was released his gun was returned. A month later George Zimmerman still has that gun, and is free to patrol another neighborhood. The shooters in the Tulsa killings were identified, apprehended, and charged within 24 hours. Blacks and whites worked together to bring about justice. The shooters in the Tulsa case may assert some type of insanity defense, but that will be up to a jury to consider. In the Martin case the, defense asserted by Martin was considered by the police, and the police became judge and jury.
It may be magical thinking to hope that hate crimes will ever disappear during my life-time. However I expect, and demand, that every law enforcement officer in America is committed to bringing about an end to hate crimes. Barack Obama has done his part by enacting the 2009 hate crime bill. Protesters around the country have done their part to bring national attention to not only the tragedy of the loss of Trayvon Martin, but also to the corruption of the police department in Sanford Florida. While we are ashamed to have a citizen who would commit such an unforgivable act towards an innocent teenager, it is even more reprehensible that the police seem to have assumed the role as protector and defender of George Zimmerman.
I am ashamed that any person from my home-town, Tulsa, Oklahoma, would be involved in such a horrific crime as the tragic shooting of five people in Tulsa on Good Friday. However I am proud to know that the police and government officials in Tulsa find this crime equally reprehensible. Until the police departments across the country demand justice for all, our sense of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness will be threatened. We are all Trayvon Martin.